By Michael Winn
Alabama vs Florida State
This is the biggest game of this first week in terms of playoff hopefuls wanting to start their seasons off with a bang. Alabama is usually in a big game to start the season and has had great success when playing these top ranked teams. Florida State didn’t have a great season last year when it came to facing top 10 teams, as they lost both games they played. If Florida State wants to make a big statement, then it needs to beat Alabama or make it a game. One thing all playoff teams can do is beat the top dogs when it counts. For the first week of the season, this is the marquee match-up.
Florida vs Michigan
Michigan is primed for a big season as Jim Harbaugh’s first recruiting class are now juniors. This matchup could propel Michigan into the top ten early in the season and make this team hyped for a potential playoff run. Florida, on the other hand, is on the outside looking in as it’s just on the other side of the top 15. Florida is going to have to win this game without some key guys. Antonio Callaway, Florida’s leading receiver last season, is suspended for this first game, along with the teams leading rusher from last season, Jordan Scarlett. Florida has suspended 10 players for its opening game. It’s always tough to start the season without some of your key pieces, but I would still expect a hard-fought game that comes down to the wire.
Texas A&M at UCLA
Texas A&M and UCLA put up a great game last year as A&M pulled out a seven-point overtime win at Kyle Field. Now A&M travels to Los Angeles to face a tough UCLA team. One of the big headlines of the offseason has been how coach Kevin Sumlin is on the hot seat in College Station, and it’s only getting hotter. A&M’s Athletic Director Scott Woodward came out and said, “Coach Sumlin knows he has to win. He has to win this year. He has to do better than he has done in the past.” Sumlin needs to prove himself and what a great way to get started with a win over UCLA. The Bruins are excited for this year as junior quarterback Josh Rosen has a great upside and hopes to revenge the loss from last year. UCLA did lose a star defensive presence in Takkarist McKinley, so the defense will be a little different. This will be a tough game that has potential to hurt a coach’s career, or maybe start a fire in College Station and have a team make a strong playoff run.
Maryland at Texas
In the last season of Charlie Strong’s short career at Texas, the Longhorns went 5-7 with a 3-6 record in Big 12 play. Texas hired former Houston coach Tom Herman, who led the Cougars to a 9-4 record. Many were surprised to see Charlie Strong not get an opportunity to see what his first recruiting class could do as seniors. This is a game that will tell a lot about this Texas team, Herman and its playoff potential. Maryland is not a team to sleep on, though, as it has proven it can beat a top 25 team if given the chance. Texas needs to come out and put its foot on the gas early and prove it isn’t a team to mess with this year.